Powered Up for Another Title Run

March 15, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – There was a time, not long ago, when Flint Powers Catholic was expected to show up at the MHSAA Girls Basketball Finals just about every season. 

And there’s been an expectation these last few years that the Chargers would soon return. 

They needed overtime, but made good on that Friday by defeating Midland Bullock Creek 48-45 to advance to their first Class B championship game since 2001. 

And it’s a run made all the more incredible given Powers’ 3-5 start this season, their Regional Semifinal upset of No. 1 Freeland – and that they came into this winter after posting an 8-13 record a year ago. 

“We sort of had a weak start from the Ladywood game (on opening night), and from there we just started picking it up and playing as a team,” Powers senior Darbie Barkman said. “’We believe’ is a huge saying for us, and we just keep going and playing strong. No matter how many points we’re down; in the Freeland game we were down 16 points and came back from that. We just had to keep believing and keep going, and we just always have to push through as a team.” 

Powers (21-6) will face either reigning champion Goodrich or Grand Rapids South Christian at 6 p.m. Saturday. Powers and Goodrich played in the same District last season, but found themselves on the opposite side of the bracket when lines were drawn for this season. 

The Chargers are owners of four MHSAA girls basketball titles. And along with those banners, a message is posted in Powers’ gym, “We believe,” which became a necessary motto during the rough start against a tough slate including Class A Semifinalist Westland John Glenn. 

Powers coach Thom Staudacher said the schedule was built so his team would know what it needed to improve on for the rest of the season. The Chargers now have won 12 straight.

But like in other wins during this run, it took a lot of small contributions from a number of players – and some big and small both from junior forward Michela Coury. 

She scored, was fouled, and made the free throw to open overtime and give Powers a lead it would never relinquish. Coury finished with 14 points and 16 rebounds – including six on the offensive end. 

But she also forced a travel during the final minute of the fourth quarter that helped preserve the regulation tie, and grabbed one of those offensive rebounds to ice the game after Powers missed two free throws with five seconds to go on overtime. 

“We just knew it was going to come down to the last minute as far as who was going to make that last shot,” Staudacher said. “We’d been trying to feed (Coury) down low all game, but it was difficult to get her down there. 

“To start that overtime, that three-point play was huge. That wasn’t the intention. We do a dribble drive, and we were working it right there. She was open, and we’ve got to feed her the ball."

Junior guard Sara Ruhstorfer led the Chargers with 16 points and junior guard Ally Haran added 12 with five assists and five steals. 

Sophomore Halee Nieman led Bullock Creek with 15 points, 11 rebounds and four steals, while freshman forward Alyssa Mudd had 12 points and sophomore guard Hannah Heldt had nine, five assists and six steals. But the Lancers (23-4) fired only four shots during the overtime, and made only one. 

Still, as coach Justin Freeland said after, most of the time when a team is outrebounded 47-28 it should mean a double-digit loss. Instead, Bullock Creek hung on through 11 lead changes and despite 17 Powers second-chance points. 

“One thing we learned as a team is to not give up,” Heldt said. “In the Clare game (Quarterfinal), we were down 15, and probably a lot of people lost hope in us. But we just kept going.”

Bullock Creek has had other strong teams under Freeland, including a 23-1 finisher in 2006 and a 24-1 squad in 2007-08. But neither of those advanced out of the Regional.

This team entered the tournament unranked, but beat No. 2 Ludington at the Regional and fell just shy of its first championship game berth. Only three seniors graduate, and four starters should return. 

“There are a lot of athletes, from the pros to college to high school, who thought, ‘We’re young. We’ll be back next year,’” Freeland said. “I don’t want to come back one year older. We need to come back one year better. Our mentality this offseason is not going to be happy. We’re going to be hungry. And I know everyone’s going to be on board with that.”

Click for a full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Flint Powers Catholic guard Ally Haran pushes the ball upcourt during Friday's Semifinal against Bullock Creek. (Middle) Bullock Creek's Ellie Juengel (24) looks for a teammate while defended by Powers' Sara Ruhstorfer. (Photos by Hockey Weekly Action Photo.)

Little Provides Major Stride as 1st Woman to Officiate Boys Hoops Final since 1995

By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com

April 13, 2023

Delonda Little was already a trailblazer to many before this year’s MHSAA Boys Basketball Finals.

Greater DetroitBut what happened last month at Breslin Center made her even more of one on a statewide level.

A referee and assigner for 20 years in the Detroit area, Little is a female boys and girls basketball official who mentors both male and female referees – no matter the gender or level, as she officiates high school and college games.

Officials often go to Little for guidance, direction and assignments, which has made her respected for years throughout Metro Detroit in the prep basketball community. Then, her status as a trailblazer grew even more.

Little was assigned as an official for the Division 3 Boys Basketball Final between Flint Beecher and Traverse City St. Francis, and she became the first female referee to officiate an MHSAA Boys Basketball Final since Traverse City’s Barb Beckett 1995.

“It was a very good feeling to know I was the one selected,” said Little, who officiated the Final with Matt Olson and Zach Porritt.  

In fact, while attending a Semifinal game the Friday before the Final, Little received a phone call from an area code she didn’t recognize.

She answered, and it was Beckett.

“At first I didn’t know the name,” Little said. “I said, ‘No, I don’t know you, but that’s fine.’”

Beckett then explained she was the first female referee to be assigned a Boys Basketball Final, and just wanted to offer support to Little.

At that point, Little became excited and thankful she answered the call.

“It was very nice to hear from her because she wanted to reach out and if not pass the torch, to congratulate me,” Little said.

Little, 51, said she found out she was going to be refereeing the Division 3 boys championship game just before the start of the postseason when she received an email from the MHSAA.

“I’m looking at the email and I’m like, boys?” Little said. “I was shocked.”

But she was shocked in a good way, and obviously excited for the honor.

Little monitors the action between Flint Beecher and Traverse City St. Francis.Little didn’t find out until a couple of days before the St. Francis/Beecher contest that she would be officiating that specific championship game, but the Monday of boys championship week was when she really started to receive congratulations from friends and colleagues.

That’s when an article came out in the Detroit News detailing her selection, which led to countless calls, texts and congratulatory messages on social media.

“I couldn’t even (keep up with the comments),” she said. “That’s how overwhelming the actual tags were. It came from all across the state with officials, men and women, because I do women’s college (games). Some of the college ladies were reaching out. I was getting all the hoopla before the game.”

Little said she normally doesn’t get nervous for games, but not having some nerves became a bit harder once so many people knew of her achievement.

However, she settled into a normal routine quickly once the game started.

“I wanted to get it done, get it over with and do well,” she said.

Little did do well, which is no surprise to everyone who knew her before she officiated on the boys championship stage.

It was just another feather in the cap for Little, who in 2016 became the first woman to officiate a boys Detroit Public School League championship game.

“Delonda is one of the top officials in the Detroit area, and our staff doesn’t look at Delonda as a female working a boys game – we see one of the top officials in Detroit working a basketball game,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “There are females officiating in the NBA and female officials in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The aspect that made Delonda’s selection for this MHSAA championship game nearly unique will soon be the norm at all levels of athletics.”     

Little graduated from Detroit Osborn in 1989 and starred on the basketball court at Wayne State, earning induction into WSU’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005.

Her day job is as an officer for the Michigan Department of Corrections, but her passion is officiating. She’s been an MHSAA-registered official for basketball for two decades and also was registered for volleyball for four years. This past fall she registered for football for the first time.

“I get something from it because it keeps me in shape, I love the people I work with and I like the kids,” Little said. “You are always teaching, and I like training the newer officials. I just enjoy it. I don’t know what I’d be doing if I wasn’t refereeing.”

Going forward, Little hopes her championship game assignment will now be an inspiration for other female referees.

“There aren’t very many women who would like to work boys basketball or feel comfortable,” Little said. “If that’s something they desire, I’m hoping more women are selected to work the games if they feel comfortable.”

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties

PHOTOS (Top) Delonda Little takes her position on the court during the Division 3 Boys Basketball Final on March 25 at Breslin Center. (Middle) Little monitors the action between Flint Beecher and Traverse City St. Francis.